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In the 1960s and early '70s, Claude Chabrol was celebrated as the Gallic Hitchcock for his crisp, character-rich thrillers. La Cérémonie, his 1997 hit adapted from Ruth Rendell's novel A Judgement in Stone, is a return to form, an assured domestic drama set in the upper-class household of the kind but condescending Lelievres family. Sandrine Bonnaire, excellent in an enigmatic, uncommunicative role, stars as their new, neurotically silent maid Sophie. She performs her duties efficiently and emotionlessly, staring out from behind an implacable, mask-like face born of loneliness and defensiveness. Isabelle Huppert is the town's gleefully misanthropic postmistress Jeanne, a gossipy, energetically insolent misfit who hates the Lelievres. When she becomes Sophie's best friend, her pathological game of taunts and gossip goes into overdrive with her sudden access to their house, and an already simmering class conflict boils over in unleashed anger. Chabrol charts the cascade of mischief and misunderstandings to its shattering conclusion, with a sensitivity to character and an eagle-eyed remove that makes the explosive climax all the more chilling. It's a devastating thriller, one of Chabrol's best, and a powerful portrait in hate and psychosis pushed over the edge in misunderstanding, manipulation, and mistrust. Jacqueline Bisset is the fumbling but sincere Mme. Lelievres, Jean-Pierre Cassel her complacent husband, and Virginie Ledoyen (A Single Girl) their sensitive young daughter. --Sean Axmaker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Then she meets the girl from the Post Office - Jeanne played by Isabel Huppert, who has a passionate dislike for the whole rotten family and starts to awaken the latent hate that is fermenting in Sophie. The other thing is they both have a past, and their pasts are achingly similar. Sophie also is covering up for the fact that she is illiterate and seems ashamed about it.
As the restrictions on her bring into focus the simmering resentment of certain members of the family, things are going to inevitably come to a head. This French film was made in 1995 and has been re released on DVD in the UK and I am rather glad that it has. This was one of those films where not a lot appears to happen, when in actual fact all the nuances of the mundane and ordinary are all building up a tapestry that will conclude with the final acts of the protagonists. It is just a brilliant film, where every single performance is so convincing without seeming to try and it had me absolutely transfixed for the duration, seriously I can not recommend highly enough.
In the course of that revelation, Bonnaire befriends the town postmistress, brilliantly played by Isabelle Huppert, who is essentially incapable of rendering a bad performance in any work she appears in. Huppert's postmistress is the opposite in character to Bonnaire's wallflower. Brash, intense, and happy to flaunt authority, the postmistress encourages the housekeeper to express herself, to break out of her shell regardless of the secret she wishes no one to know about, to enjoy life even without the wealth that Bonnaire's employers have and that Huppert resents so vehemently.
As the housekeeper comes to trust the postmistress more and more, and, based on that, becomes more assertive, the postmistress tells her what she really wants. The psychological interplay between these two characters is done so superbly that the tremendously shocking ending is completely credible and all the more powerful for it.
The film's setting, a small rural French town, also contributes to its power, and is an equally superb choice that subtly underlines the contrast of the highly educated wealthy who retreat from the world, and the street smart working class who make the world what it is--in particular, foisting it when and where they can on their bitter rivals, the rich, for position in the world they know.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
In this character study of two hateful middle-aged women (not so middle-aged in the movie, however, as in the novel by Ruth Rendell) we are made to fathom the bad that may befall... Read morePublished on Jan. 31 2002 by Dennis Littrell
Based on Ruth Rendell's novel A Judgment in Stone, Claude Chabrol's 1995 film is fascinating and disturbing. Read morePublished on July 27 2000 by Peter Shelley
This is a terrifying little thriller about the psychopathy lurking in the most mundane places. Bonnaire is chillingly affectless as an illiterate housekeeper, and Huppert is... Read morePublished on June 26 2000 by R. W. Rasband
Based on Ruth Rendell's novel A Judgment in Stone, Claude Chabrol's 1995 film is fascinating and disturbing. Read morePublished on June 11 2000 by Peter Shelley
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